The end of the year is here! But did it come too soon? If you're homeschooling your children then your primary concern is usually whether or not your children are up to par academically with kids their own age.
And June is the month when this concern escalates faster than a rocket headed for space. But it doesn't need to.
Your children may or may not be up to par and for some subjects it won't matter, for others it may. There are several factors to consider, and some steps you can take if they are behind.
First, homeschooling is not a cookie cutter approach to learning, nor should it be. It's meant to be the opposite; to tailor the education to the child rather than tailor the child to the education.
Consequently, comparing your homeschooled children to other children's progress at the end of the year may be helpful, but it may also be counter-productive.
The main concern here is that you don't want one of your children to develop a sense of being behind in his learning because you're comparing him to the boy next door especially if the boy next door is following the public school curriculum.
Doing this may cause your son to feel a little anxious, and put a damper on his learning experience.
On the other hand, you should have a sense of what level you want him to be in the core subjects like reading, writing, and math and you should strive to keep him up to speed or even ahead of schedule.
While it doesn't matter as much before age ten or twelve, after that you have to start thinking about college preparation when it will matter a lot.
But for argument's sake, lets' say you had a couple of rough years; maybe a new baby, maybe a move, maybe some unexpected demands, and now your child is a year behind in his math lessons.
(BTY, getting a little behind in math is not uncommon for homeschoolers whose mothers don't usually enjoy teaching math which is one of the reasons I recommend the Life of Fred math program—the kids love it too!)
What's the worst case scenario? He's behind. What's the solution? Get him up to speed.
The beauty of homeschooling is that the learning is one-on-one; what can take a child six months to learn in public school, he can learn in a couple of weeks at home.
Even if your child gets a year behind in a subject, with a concentrated effort, you can usually get him up to speed in a few months. Think summer school crash courses.
But maybe the problem isn't as simple as that. Maybe your child isn't a whole grade behind, but he's beginning to struggle because he failed to grasp a few concepts, and he could potentially get behind. If there are conceptual difficulties, then a few things may be at play.
- He may not be developmentally ready to learn a particular concept
- He may have reached a plateau
- He may need more practice
If he's a young child, and you're trying to teach him fractions, for example, it may be better to wait until he's a little older. He may not be developmentally ready to tackle learning fractions, which is a subject that can be confusing even for children who are ready.
If he seems to be grasping other math concepts quickly but is struggling with fractions, then maybe his brain just needs a rest. It's common to reach a plateau while learning a new subject; it feels like nothing will sink in. In this case, you can try moving onto something else and coming back to fractions in a week or two, and you may find then that it suddenly clicks for him.
If he seems to understand the concept but is still making a lot of errors when he tries to solve the problems, then you might want to get him a unit study of fractions and let him only focus on fractions until he's ready to move on. More practice doing fraction problems may be all he needs. For this, the Key Curriculum workbooks are perfect.
While you want to make an effort not to get behind in the core academic subjects, there are some subjects like literature, history, and science where it would be a huge mistake to try to keep your child on a rigid curriculum schedule.
The public school system might have fifth graders studying the history of California, but your homeschooler might be fascinated with the Revolutionary War. Rather than have him study Californian history begrudgingly, let him explore the Revolutionary War to his heart's content.
He'll follow his interests and learn far more about the Revolutionary War at home than he would ever learn in school just because he has a passion for the subject—his desire to learn is the motivating force that will propel him to excel.
But insist he learn Californian history, and he'll do the minimal amount of work. When you introduce him to the American Revolution in sixth or seventh grade—as planned—he may no longer be interested. It's a risk you take when you try to keep your child on the public school grade schedule or anyone else's schedule.
While teaching your child about the state he lives in is important, if he doesn't learn about it at the same time as his schooled counterparts, it won't put him behind; it just places him on a different trajectory, which is correct. He should be on his own path, after all, he's homeschooled.
Who can judge the worth of one man's knowledge over another's? I don't mean the worth of education over ignorance, that's obvious, but the worth of what one educated man knows over another educated man? It would be impossible to quantify knowledge in this way because it's particular to the individual and to his or her life.
If one person loves hiking and another biking, you wouldn't judge their preferences as right or wrong but as different. Intellectual knowledge is the same way. We choose to learn about the subjects we find interesting.
If your child gets behind schedule in the core subjects, for whatever reason, take some time during the summer to catch up by doing a unit study. You can also take a summer break, and begin the unit study a few weeks before you plan to start the next homeschooling year.
For the other subjects, I would go with the flow more than I would a schedule. Have a map, have a plan, but be flexible enough to sacrifice your plan when your children's natural interests and talents dictate otherwise.
Keep in mind that the average schoolteacher gives each student about six minutes of undivided attention a day. Homeschooled children learn so much faster because they get as much one-on-one attention as they need.
If you're a diligent homeschooling parent, and I know you are because you're reading this, then your children should be able to quickly catch up to speed in any subject.
Don't panic and do enjoy the summer!
If you enjoyed this, you might like my free download Ten Books Every Well-Educated Child Should Read.
If you need help with your homeschooling, you can schedule a one-hour consultation with me (that's usually all you'll need) http://bit.ly/2GJAZEr